Forget about “the rules of journaling.” Journaling rules can never be more than mere suggestions.
I’m not good at keeping rules. I get bored if I always have to do the same thing, at the same time. I get frustrated if I force myself to keep to a strict schedule. The only thing that I have been able to do consistently to a strict(ish) schedule is Intermittent Fasting. I do benefit from committing to keep a gratitude journal, but I also need flexibility, variety and the regular recharging of my motivation batteries. From many years of gratitude journaling, I have learned that:
You don’t HAVE to list 5 things that you are grateful for each day. If times are difficult and the only thing that you are grateful for is the fact that you are still alive, that’s fine. List that and that only. If you want to list more than 5 things, do so! List 10, 20, 50 or a 100 things…there are no limits to how many items you can list.
You don’t HAVE to write in your journal every morning, or every evening or at any specific time of the day every day. One day you can write while commuting, another day you can write while standing in a cue (on your phone) or while waiting for a meeting. Or you can make up your mind to journal every morning, while you have your first cup of coffee, or last thing at night when all is quiet around you. Same time every day or different time every day. It’s up to you.
You don’t HAVE to keep your journal on paper. You can journal on your phone, your tablet or your computer. There are loads of apps available online to make it easier for you: DayOne, Your Private Gratitude Journal, Mojo and The Gratitude 365 Journal, to name but a few. Or you can create a document on your computer and add to it every day. Or use a simple online agenda like Google Calendar. Or you can subscribe to an e-course like the Stress to Serenity with Gratitude and Generosity e-Course and complete each day’s suggestions on paper or on your computer.
You don’t have to bother with spelling, grammar or punctuation. If you are a perfectionist, this is going to be a difficult concept to take on board. Write whatever comes into your head. Go with the flow. Don’t censor, don’t judge and don’t doubt your writing. If you absolutely HAVE to, do a spelling/grammar check once you have finished writing, with an app like Grammarly or WritingAid.
You don’t HAVE to write to keep a gratitude journal. You can take pictures of what you are grateful for, every day. Or you can keep a scrapbook with bits and pieces that remind you of happenings that make you feel grateful, like the till slip of that romantic meal in your favourite restaurant, or the tickets to that mindboggling opera performance you went to or a pressed wildflower from that unforgettable walk through the park. If you love drawing or painting, you can draw or paint in your gratitude journal. You can create a Pinterest “What I am Grateful for in 2019” board (here’s mine.) Or you can write one day, draw the next or take pictures the day after. Or everything on the same day, whatever works for you, on that day.
You don’t HAVE to invest a significant amount of time into expressing your gratitude. You can keep it simple. List whatever you are grateful for and get on with your day. Or you can take 10 minutes out of your day and get 10 times more benefit from your gratitude practice by enriching it with motivating and inspiring quotes or empowering affirmations, as I advise in my book “Embracing Change – in 10 Minutes a Day – Simple Strategies, Smart Suggestions and Insight-giving Stories (Fabriqué en France Book 3)” You can make these 10 minutes the highlight of your day: time you set apart to invest in your future, your well-being and the well-being of those you care about. Some days, you might have time for a bullet-point list only, other days you may have more time to yourself. It doesn’t matter. Do only as much as you can on any given day. It is still a million times better than doing nothing at all.
You don’t HAVE to exclude all distractions. Some journaling experts advise that you remove all distractions while you are journaling. This might well be necessary for some people, depending on their circumstances. It might be necessary some days for you too, and not others. I don’t always exclude all distractions. Sometimes distractions remind me of what I have to be grateful for: a beautiful piece of music playing in the background, my horses cavorting around in their paddock, happy to be alive, a text coming in from a well-loved and much-appreciated friend, the smell of freshly made coffee…admittedly, even though it makes my “I am grateful for”-time more rewarding, it sometimes also makes it longer, so when I have little time, I tend to narrow my focus and exclude distractions.
You don’t HAVE to look back through your gratitude journal. Take a couple of minutes out of your day, write down what you are grateful for and forget about it. You will still benefit enormously. Or you can make time each month to look back and discover how keeping a gratitude diary has improved your life. Or not. If not, you might want to tweak the way you go about it for better results. You never have to look at what you were grateful for in the past, but in stressful times, this is a very effective way of reminding yourself that difficult times don’t last forever and that you have much to be grateful for, even if things are getting on top of you at this moment in time. Makes you more resilient, also.
Journalling is one of the oldest self-help tools known to man, and in my opinion, as a self-development tool, gratitude journalling is second to none.
You are doing this for YOU. You can make your own rules and break each one as often as you like…or you can journal without any rules whatsoever. The idea is to keep a gratitude journal, daily, for the rest of your life. Be flexible. Be rigid. Be creative. Be whatever you like. Be YOU.
You will get the most value from gratitude journaling, and you are more likely to continue with it for the rest of your life, if you adjust jour journal keeping to whatever is going on in your life, whatever works for you and whatever style of journaling you enjoy most.
“Gratitude is one of the most powerful human emotions. Once expressed, it changes attitude, brightens outlook, and broadens our perspective.” – Germany Kent
Gratitude Journalling can dramatically increase your self-esteem and empower you to make the changes you want to make in your life. I have created a “Coping with Change Checklist and Cheatsheet” and a “10 Steps to Instant Self-Confidence” Guide that I share with the subscribers to my mailing list. Claim your copy here.
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